Hermeneutics, the lifeworld, and the universality of reason
In recent years a number of loosely related trends in postmodernist thought have contested the age-old philosophical ideal of universalism, accusing it of being a covert form of "Eurocentrism." In the place of universalism, which they see as being inevitably reductionist and hegemonic, they seek to defend the notions of incommensurability, particularity, localism, community, "difference," and so on. In this chapter I would like to explore some of the contributions that present-day hermeneutical theory could make to the universalism/particularism debate. In particular, I wish to show how the notion of universality defended by hermeneutics escapes the criticisms leveled at the traditional notion of universality by the anti-universalists. Hermeneutical universalism (or, perhaps better said, hermeneutical transversalism) is in no way "essentialist" and is thus not opposed to "particularity." Indeed, in its own postmodern way, hermeneutics overcomes the metaphysical either: universality versus particularity. With its notion of "application," hermeneutics is in a position to defend universal values (such as universal human rights) in a way that is compatible with the uniqueness of different cultures or lifeworlds (hermeneutical universality is, in other words, "context-sensitive"). Since contemporary hermeneutics is grounded in the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, and since Husserl I today viewed by many as defending an "essentialist" universalism, I begin wtth a retrospective look at Hesserl's position in this matter.
Madison, G.B. (2001). Hermeneutics, the lifeworld, and the universality of reason, in The politics of postmodernity, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 37-68.
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